The Call of a Lifetime: How GSK and Smile Train Brought Cleft Care to the Most Remote Regions of India

December 21, 2020 | Smile Train

Anadni and Adhula were terrified of losing their sons, two-year-old Rambol and one-year-old Shyambol. Because both boys had a cleft, everything they ate came out their noses; they grew weaker by the day for lack of nutrition and seemed unable to put on weight.


Like many in rural India, Adhula believed a superstition that her sons were born with clefts because she may have used a knife during an eclipse while pregnant with them. The neighbors, however, put the blame on Andani, insisting he must have done some evil deed to deserve this test from the gods.

Yet through all the guilt and shame, the couple loved their sons and wanted only the best for them. They would have gone to any length for treatment, but, with their meager income, help seemed far out of reach from their tiny village in Bihar State.

Rambol and Shayambol

Meanwhile, in Delhi, Smile Train’s local staff were sitting in a room with representatives from our global corporate sponsor GSK Consumer Healthcare India brainstorming ways to leverage the latter’s global reach to find people with clefts in the most remote regions of India. The group landed on an ingenious solution: A national toll-free cleft helpline. “The toll-free cleft helpline is the first national resource in clefts,” explains Mamta Carrol, Smile Train’s SVP and Regional Director for Asia. “Any patient or their families, or anyone who wants to know about clefts, can simply call this number and get help. This would have not been possible without the help of GSK.”

People read Smile Train and GSK's pamphlet about the helpline

GSK and Smile Train knew that the first step in guaranteeing the helpline’s success would be to distribute informative pamphlets far and wide, making sure anyone who knew anyone with a cleft in this nation of more than one billion people would know this resource exists. It worked, and the calls soon came pouring in.

Smile Train's Helpline Officer Gomathi in action

When parents call the helpline, they are greeted by the warm, calming voice of Gomathi, Smile Train’s Helpline Officer, who reassures them that she is there to make sure they receive all the care they need. “When parents call us, they are very scared and worried. They are totally lost. Knowing that I am able to comfort parents of babies with clefts gives me great satisfaction,” she said.


One day, one of those calls came from a social worker in a remote part of Bihar State. He had seen one of GSK’s pamphlets and gave Gomathi the mobile number of a mother he said she needed to reach out to right away. It was Adhula. Gomathi immediately connected her with the nearest Smile Train partner, Rabia Basri Hospital in Patna.

Anadni playing with Rambol and Shaymbol

The staff at Rabia Basri embraced the family with open arms. Thanks to their partnership with Smile Train, the hospital was not only able to offer Rambol and Shyambol the surgery they needed to save their lives 100% free, but also cover the family’s costs of travel and food so they could keep their focus where it belonged — being there for their boys.

Shaymbol smilies, his face backlit by the sun

“After the operation, I was very happy,” said Anadni. “They started eating and drinking normally. It was a joyous moment. Whatever I am doing, my kids will come first. Their luck will shine.”

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